“Tis the season to be jolly” may not be the most apt term this year with the COVID humbug still having such a drastic impact on work and family life.
If you are part of the HR team the fact the Christmas party has been cancelled might be regarded as the silver lining in a bad situation. It means a year off from the annual worry of who will do what after over-indulging at the bar and the post-party enquiries into who might be liable, and worst still, potential disciplinary repercussions.
Unfortunately though, if you decide to replace the traditional Christmas party with the 2020 style "virtual" one, this doesn't necessarily mean the occasion will be worry free for you. Even when miles apart employees behaving badly online might have the same ramifications as the usual party antics raising issues of potential harassment which an employer can’t ignore.
Reducing the risk
If the virtual Christmas party or virtual social events is something that your company is considering over the festive period, it is important to ensure that employees are aware that your company policies and procedures regarding bullying and harassment (which includes cyberbullying) still apply and that certain behaviour is still unacceptable, even if it is behind a computer screen.
In addition, you should ensure employees are aware of the appropriate use of company property and chat functions, including what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable.
Ensure all employees are invited to any virtual events, to avoid the risk of excluding individuals. Encourage managers and senior employees to encourage their team to attend and encourage everyone to take part in any virtual quizzes or other interactions.